What Keeps Us from God: The B-Word

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We all struggle with the B-word.

We use it every day.

The B-word is also a feeling that pesters us throughout the day. We’re never far from its influence.

If the B-word has its way, we have a hard time stopping to pray. Serving others seems impossible. Living like Jesus just can’t fit into our schedule.

We are BUSY.

There, I said the B-word. It’s such a terrible four letter word. It signifies more than just a full plate. It suggests elements of chaos and hurry, rushing from one thing to another with our arms loaded down.

If you’re busy or at least think you’re busy, it’s hard to sit down to pray. You feel this tug to stay in motion, to keep moving on to the next thing.

Who can sit and wait for God when your mind is cranking into motion?

Having a kid around has redefined the word busy for me. I know that’s sort of a parenting cliché. I don’t want to put parents on a different level than single folks or married couples without kids. I’m just saying… WOW!

Ethan keeps me hopping, and I’ve had to rethink when and how I pray or read scripture. I’m still trying to figure out where service to others fits in, as I don’t think having a kid gives me an opt out clause for Matthew 25. I want and need to be involved in works of justice in my community.

I’ve found that I increasingly need to work with smaller chunks of time during this season. A bit of scripture meditation in the morning, a walk with Ethan to clear my mind while he snoozes, and perhaps a little more scripture reading at night. As for Matthew 25, I’m currently praying for a regular nap schedule so I can plan more than 2-3 hours ahead each day.

Ah, but that B-word, it pokes and prods me every day, especially for my noon and evening prayer times. I’m tempted to fly through the scripture passages, content to count “reading my assignment” as good enough for God. How quickly the B-word turns a freeing spiritual practice into an obligatory time card. How tragic it is when the B-word empties the joy out of my pause to pray.

Sometimes our lives fill up. There’s no doubt that we have to turn some things down.

However, when I use the B-word as an excuse to avoid prayer or love of neighbor, I’m lying. Unbalanced or mistaken priorities? Yes.

The pursuit of God takes an act of the will. Some days it’s as simple as flipping open a book. Other days I need to move mountains. Either way, it is my choice, and the lie behind the word “busy” is that I have none.

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7 thoughts on “What Keeps Us from God: The B-Word

  1. Brenna D (@chicagomama)

    I realized that the B word was a problem for me, when I asked my girls if they wanted to color and instead of just saying “no thank you,” said, “not now, we’re too busy.”

    Ugh.

    Yup. Time to rethink things!

  2. Ray Hollenbach

    This is the line that jumped out from your post, Ed:

    “I’m still trying to figure out where service to others fits in, as I don’t think having a kid gives me an opt out clause for Matthew 25.”

    I’d like to suggest that while having a kids does not give you a reason to opt out of Matthew 25, it does give you reason to re-think that passage. Who are the others you are called to serve? What does it look like to serve others? Does the Father look at your daily routine, or monthly, or the habits of a lifetime? I believe the first laboratory for every Christian virtue is within the home. It’s so much easy to do the math when we are single. When we marry we recognize the game has changed dramatically. Yet again the tally changes God Himself entrusts the care of others to us in the form of children. Finally, I believe the circle comes full when we demonstrate to our children faithfulness within the family and also live out the example of service to others before their eyes.

  3. Sharon S.

    Great article, Ed! I’ve been following you quietly since I discovered your “Women in Ministry” series. I’m a mom of 3 teen girls, married to a pastor, committed to living intentionally in an urban community, and have been working my way ever so sloooowly towards my MDiv since 2006, and now learning to live with a chronic illness. Being “busy” has been a constant struggle and balancing act in my life. You stated some of the struggles so well!
    I also agree with Ray’s points that our first calling is to our family and our children. In an attempt to live a life of service, we have involved our children whenever possible, and taught them to choose ways to serve that they enjoy….service is a way of life, part of our calling as Christians, not an option….but NOT at the expense of our relationships with one another or our mental or physical health. Service is something we want to enjoy and the way we share our joy in Christ with others. If it becomes a chore or something we resent, then it’s time to reevaluate….what are we communicating if we lack joy in our service since our service is done as an expression of gratitude to our Savior, Jesus Christ!
    I’ve found that service has looked different at different stages/seasons in my life and opportunities present themselves around our children, their activities, peer group, etc.
    However, the part of your article that challenged me is how do we grow in our relationship with God in the midst of all this? Since having children, I’ve found it nearly impossible to find any quiet retreat in my home for study or extended time alone with God. Instead I’ve developed habits of breathing prayers throughout the day, looking for God in the “routines” of life (like your walks, thanks for a beautiful flower or cool breeze, etc.), praying – or talking – with Jesus as I’m driving etc. so that I’m developing more of a “constant companion” relationship, taking opportunities to pray with others throughout the day as they express needs/concerns, verbally acknowledging God’s answers to prayeers or unexpected provisions, etc. As for study and growth, I’ve looked for opportunities in bible studies, workshops, classes, etc. and in teaching my children by searching God’s Word together and learning with them with fresh, childlike eyes. Yes, our “time” with God changes as our personal relationships change, but our spouse and children also provide great opportunities for us to “see” and “know” God in new, wonderful ways! Thank you for your honest, vulnerable writing! Blessings on this journey!

    1. ed Post author

      Good points! Thanks so much for sharing your story. I think you’ll enjoy Micah Boyett’s blog Mama Monk at Patheos. She writes about developing those practices for parents.

  4. Katie Axelson

    (I know this is an old post now… I’m a little behind)
    My pastor once wrote a blog about wearing “busy” like a badge. Ever since then I’ve been so self-conscious about it, only using it in the most extreme of weeks.

  5. David Rupert

    Ed, you know what I think is funny is how we often hold on to our busyness as a matter of pride. It’s a badge of honor to be whipped out at just the right time. I must admit that I’m proud of my busyness — and I have no shame in using it.

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